CHALLENGES TO GETTING HER THERE:
THE FACTS ON GIRLS AND SELF-ESTEEM
- One-third of all girls in grades nine to 12 think they are overweight, and 60 percent are trying to lose weight. (Source: Girl Scout Research Institute)
- 75 percent of teenage girls felt ‘depressed, guilty and shameful’ after spending just three minutes leafing through a fashion magazine. (Source: Dove Campaign For Real Beauty)
- 90 percent of eating disorders are found in girls. (Source: National Association for Self-Esteem)
- 74 percent of girls say they are under pressure to please everyone (Source: Girls Inc.)
- 72 percent of African-American girls between 13-21 surveyed say the media sends the message that a black girl’s sex appeal is her most important quality (Essence Magazine & the National Campaign)
Sexualization of Women and Girls in the Media
What you see, you will be. If you believe that, then we are in a world of trouble when it comes to what our girls and teens are bombarded with in the media. From retailers marketing push-up bras to preteens, to videos with nameless faceless women as props, to photo-shopped images of perfect people who don’t actually exist—what message are we giving our girls and young women?
Do we really believe their only value is in being skinny, flawless sexed-up props who don’t have a voice? Surely not. And what about sending that same message to young men-that women and girls are not as valuable as they are? We know their value is so much more than these toxic messages tell them.
Making a Difference for Our Girls
So let’s do something about these toxic messages. It’s not enough to say, “It’s just television, it’s not real.” The statistics are very real and the evidence of the damage media is doing to young women and men is there. Yet media that is demeaning to women and girls is extremely profitable and is not about to go away anytime soon. Having said that, we are not powerless in protecting our girls and demanding better media.
What you can do: Be an active participant when watching television and movies, reading magazines, listening to music or even surfing the web. I say active because media types are savvy and it’s not always easy to spot something that is reinforcing negative false stereotypes. Be an active alert consumer, then you can decide what NOT to consume. Here is a quick checklist of a few things to ask yourself as you engage with the media:
- Are female characters depicted as somehow less than their male counterparts in competence or intelligence?
- Is violence against women and girls being glamorized?
- Are women and girls being over sexualized or objectified to sell products?
You can find a thorough checklist of what girl-positive media could and should look like from the Girl Scouts Healthy Media campaign:
HEALTHY MEDIA CHECKLIST (pdf)
Watch What You Watch PSA
By making a choice to NOT consume media that depicts women and girls in an unhealthy manner, you are actively making a difference by showing the media industry that you want healthy media content that inspires and empowers women and girls.
RESOURCES TO EMPOWER GIRLS
There are many wonderful organizations and individuals out there today helping make our world a better place by empowering girls and calling out media that sexualizes and demeans them. Here are some of my favorites:
The Girl Scouts have declared 2012 the Year of the Girl. I say let’s make that every year.
I am so proud to serve on the Board of the Girl Scouts. While people generally associate the Girl Scouts with cookies and crafts, the organization is shifting gears to make it clear what the brand stands for: developing female leaders. The Scouts are the largest leadership development organization for girls in the United States.
The Girl Scouts are asserting that the country would be in a much better position if women were represented in leadership across the country. The Girls Scouts’ ToGetHerThere campaign supports that goal. Click here to find out ways you can help a girl stand up, stand out and stand tall.